As Fall approaches and educators and students gear up for the new school year, here at POV we’re thinking about how documentaries can best be used in the classroom. Thanks to a grant from Council Member Stephen Levin, we gathered eight Brooklyn teachers and administrators in our offices just before the Summer for a brainstorm (with a side of falafel and humus from Brooklyn favorite, Black Iris).
This year marks our second year in our new Brooklyn digs in DUMBO, and our strategy for engaging schools in the borough is evolving. We’re always looking for new ways to integrate our films and free resources into classrooms nationwide, including right here in Brooklyn.
The teachers that joined the meeting that spanned a range of disciplines (English, Social Studies, Media Studies) and served as a good sample size of our community network of 3,000+ teachers nationwide.
Here are some take-aways from the meeting:
Documentaries are seen as powerful teaching tools
- Documentaries engage students in a way written work may not be able to.
- Documentaries engage and excite students, connecting students to issues they might not understand.
- Despite time and technology barriers, teachers like using documentaries in the classroom.
Time is of the Essence
- Due to 45-minute class periods, many teachers simply do not have time to show a full documentary in one sitting. Many teachers use the most appropriate clip from a film, instead of showing the whole film.Some teachers use documentaries to create a background for other text-based class material.
- Teachers prefer to review the documentary ahead of time to know how to properly frame issues.
In addition to discussing strategies for engaging schools locally, we talked about ways to better connect with teachers across the country, and to more effectively measure the impact of our work.
While we all recognized that documentaries present some challenges, from our discussion, it’s clear that these teachers feel documentary films excite and educate students, and hold an important place in the classroom.
Interested in using documentaries in your classroom? Check out our Educators page where you can browse free standards-aligned lesson plans by Subject and Grade Level. Each lesson plan is designed to fit into a 50-minute class period and comes with free streaming film clips.